Straight to Hell

Straight to Hell.

 

“Fuck punk,” he said, knocking the ashtray on the floor and stubbing his cigarette out on the worn sofa, “it’s over now.” He was wearing his skeletal leather jacket that clung to him sinewy muscle. Some people always wanted to know how Jake stayed so thin, but it wasn’t much of a secret. He smoked more than he ate. It let him slide into pipecleaner jeans and still look nineteen five years later.

 

We were sat in his parent’s basement, where he slept between shifts at the restaurant, and passing round a joint. Jake was pacing, jittery. He kept whisking his greased hair behind his ears, so curls wound their way across the lobes, showing off pierced ears. He had to cover them up with plasters at work. I passed him the joint, but it didn’t reach his lips,

 

“This is so fucking useless,” he pointed the joint right at me, “we should do something,”

“Something?” I murmured.

“Yeah man,” he leaned on the table, bowed his head – thinking, “fucking something.”

 

He had already called in sick to work, pulling something about a doctor’s appointment out of his ass. It wouldn’t matter though, that near Christmas and no-one is going in for a meal. Most mornings, the fire exit would be frozen shut and we’d have to blast it from the inside with a fan-heater before we could open up. If the supervisors weren’t in, we’d take turns kicking at the door, Jake in his jackboots; he’d be smiling the whole time. I had a morning off, but already I had decided not to bother heading in for the afternoon.

 

This was too important.

 

“Maybe we could, I dunno, write a song,” I mumbled this, not sure whether it was the right answer; knowing that Jake was looking for the right answer.

“A song? No man,” he grinned, “Got something much better than that.”

 

He didn’t explain any further, instead he passed the roll-up back to me and picked a bottle of vodka off the floor. The remnants sloshing around at the bottom. He stunk of it already, that and stale smoke. His breath was always that strange intoxication of pure alcohol and tobacco. Whenever he lit up, I’d always go tense in thinking that he might light himself on fire. He opened the bottle and slugged it back in a gulp. The clear liquid poured down his throat. Some drooled down his mouth. He let out a gasp of relief and chucked the bottle, now empty, onto the bed.

 

With no windows, the air was getting smoggy, a calm mist of weed smoke rising; almost visibly clinging to the torn up armchair and broken shelving. In a moment of panic, I picked up the ashtray and stubbed the joint out; my finger slipping and catching a burn off the tip.

 

Jake was flat on his stomach across the bed, legs kicking in the air – grass and dogshit stained his shoes. He was searching for something on the other side of the frame. For a moment I thought it was going to be his guitar; I was up for a session, hadn’t played in weeks.

 

He’d been given the guitar by his dad. The only thing Jake had ever been given by him. It sounded ok, despite how old it was. Jake had restrung it so he could play it left handed. Loved knocking out tuneless riffs from Stones and Clash tracks. Before he moved back and started drinking, he said he’d call our band ‘Sinestro’. “It’s like a pun, right?” I’d asked, and he’d just wave his left hand up at me as an answer. I’d never made any illusions of fame, never thought we’d get further than yelling toneless notes at each other in his basement, but somehow that was enough and we had fun.

 

But it wasn’t his guitar he was picking up. He was searching beyond the edge of the bed for something. Scrabbling around, moving things out of the way, picking up books and throwing them.

 

“What are you looking for?” I asked, knowing full well he wouldn’t answer till he found it. On the bed I noticed the newspaper, open on the obituaries. He’d got a full page spread, loving words, not just from people he knew, but people he didn’t, people like us. Fans. Me and Jake, we had always been in awe of him. He had been our role model, our teacher.

 

Jake pulled out a shadowy leather book, thick and heavy. The front was embossed with a pentagram.

 

“Mate, today we’re going to bring Joe Strummer back.”

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